Friday, November 25, 2016

Rosalie Lightning

In my life exactly three graphic novels have made me cry, this being the third. Rosalie Lightning is about a couple dealing with the death of their almost-2-year-old-daughter, and as a father of a just-past-1-year-old there is certainly a lot of empathy I could have to this tale. But just saying that this book tells an emotionally charged story sells it far short. The subject matter is raw and very human, but how it is presented is what makes this book exceptional.
Its author, Tom Hart, is a long-time comics artist and also a teacher. He has drawn comics about Hutch Owen for decades now, and he also runs the Sequential Arts Workshop in Gainesville, Florida. He puts all of his experience and expertise in display in fine fashion throughout the book. He varies his style from a cartoony, big-fingered style to portray the past and a much more scratchy, dark style to convey his present. He borrows styles, excerpts, and quotations from classic works by EC Comics, Tezuka, and Miyazaki (among others) to create a common visual language and a set of symbols that appear throughout the book, striking very specific notes at opportune times. Not only is this a masterful comic, it is also a master class on how to use comics to their full effect.
All of the reviews of this book I have read have been glowing. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and called it "a masterpiece—and a luminous tribute to a brief, beautiful life." Kirkus Reviews summed up, "A bracing, deeply saddening journey into death and loss whose wryly affirmative resolution, “joy breaking through the storm clouds,” is nothing but hard won." Rob Clough wrote, "The book can be described as any number of things: a prayer, a diary, an extended ritual, the act of creation used as as a way to face tragedy, a howl of anger and despair, and an emphatic display of gratitude both to those who helped him and Leela and the art that helped comfort him."

Rosalie Lightning was published by St. Martin's Press, and they have a preview and more info about it here.

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